After two straight years of record-setting payroll growth following the pandemic-related disruptions, the labor market is starting to show signs of stress. That suggests 2023 could bring slower hiring or outright job declines as the overall economy slows or tips into recession.
Employers added 223,000 jobs in December, the smallest gain in two years, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings were up 4.6% in December from the previous year, the narrowest increase since mid-2021, and down from a March peak of 5.6%.
Other data released this week point to a slowing U.S. economy. New orders for manufactured goods fell a seasonally adjusted 1.8% in November, the Commerce Department said Friday. Business surveys showed a contraction in economic activity in December, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Manufacturing firms posted the second-straight contraction following 29 months of expansion, and services firms snapped 30 straight months of growth in December.
Despite some signs of cooling, the labor market remains exceptionally strong. The Labor Department recently reported that there were 10.5 million job openings at the end of November, unchanged from October, well more than the number of unemployed Americans seeking work.